Unfortunately for the visiting Gilmer football team, that feeling proved to be spot-on as Cartersville delivered another bounce-back win — 31-0 — following a week where it was held scoreless.
“It’s good to be home. We’ve been on the road so long. We hadn’t been here since Labor Day, so it was a good feeling to be back home. Our kids played hard; they played well. They prepared all week, they practiced well, and our goal is to take it one week at a time … and try to get better as a football team,” Canes coach Frank Barden said afterward. “Our kids have played hard all year, and we’ve done a lot of good things. We just needed some good things to happen for us, and that second play of the game was a big play for us. It gave us a little mental boost.”
After a 10-0 defeat at Allatoona last week, Cartersville wasted little time getting on the scoreboard.
The Canes reached the end zone in a hurry, guaranteeing there would be no shutout as Elijah Windom caught a Tyler Will pass and scored a 57-yard touchdown on a post route on the hosts’ second play from scrimmage. A Preston Slemp point-after touchdown gave Cartersville a one-score lead with 10:16 to play in the first quarter.
The score, however, remained 7-0 going into halftime after two Cane turnovers near the red zone undid scoring opportunities in the first and second quarters. The Bobcats’ Cameron Kephart picked off a Will pass at the 4-yard line, and Gilmer jumped on a Cartersville fumble at its own 18 to avoid a bigger halftime deficit.
“We gotta finish some drives there in the first half, but we’re getting better,” Barden acknowledged. “We’re a work in progress, and hopefully, we’re gonna keep working to get better.”
The Canes completed drives much better after exiting the locker room, which allowed them to blow the game wide open.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Cartersville drove 53 yards in eight plays, getting a 28-yard run from Brandon Long — his longest run of the night — before Will and Windom connected for another score, this one a well-timed corner route on third-and-16 from the Gilmer 21. Slemp’s PAT provided the Canes with a 14-0 lead at the 8:47 mark of the third.
Cartersville added to that lead following the Bobcats’ first turnover — a fumble recovered by Brandon Wells — which led to Slemp’s 38-yard field goal with 6:37 remaining in the third.
With the Canes’ defense preserving its shutout, the hosts’ offense continued to pad the lead as a three-plus minute drive, which began at the end of the third, ended with Cartersville’s first rushing touchdown of the game — an 11-yard run from freshman running back Kalin Heath, who made amends for an earlier fumble. The lead had swelled to 24-0 after Slemp’s PAT with 9:11 to go in the game.
For the Canes’ final score, the defense took its turn as Maina Kariuki stepped in front of Bobcats quarterback Marlin Hensley’s pass and returned the interception 35 yards up the left sideline to provide the final margin.
Cartersville rushed 19 times for 105 yards in the second half after registering less than 10 carries to start the game. Long finished with 74 yards on 14 carries, and Heath had eight carries for 42 yards and a score.
“They were packing the box. We had to throw it some. They had everybody up there, just really daring us to throw the ball so you gotta throw it,” Barden explained of the Canes’ nine rushing attempts in the first half. “But then we were able to loosen ’em up by throwing it, and we got some runs off. Brandon and Kalin did good; the line did a good job blocking. That was kind of what we had to do.”
As for Cartersville’s passing attack, Will was 9 of 17 with 186 yards and two touchdowns. Windom had 99 yards receiving and two TDs on three catches, which included a diving grab in the fourth quarter as the senior wideout kept the ball off the turf with his hands.
The Canes, and their offense, responded well for the second time this season after a shutout. Following a season-opening 12-0 loss at Pepperell, Cartersville blitzed visiting Darlington the next week for a 24-0 victory. This rebound win might mean more as it gives the Canes their first Region 7B-AAA triumph and keeps them on pace for another chance at the playoffs. Cartersville has three sub-region games left to play — vs. Murray County Friday, at Cedartown Oct. 21 and vs. Pickens Oct. 28. Its Nov. 5 home game will be crossover game with a Region 7A-AAA opponent, whom would be determined by the Canes’ seeding in their sub-region.
Barden, however, did not seem to be concerned with looking beyond the next game or how the season could possibly shake out.
“It’s a one-week deal and the most important game of the year is gonna be Murray County because it’s the next one. The most important week of practice is coming, so that’s our mindset,” he said. “We have to go out and enjoy this one … and watch the film and then come out Monday and be ready to get better.”
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 F
GIL 0 0 0 0 0
CAR 7 0 10 14 31
CAR — Elijah Windom 59-yd pass from Tyler Will (Preston Slemp kick), 10:16
CAR — Windom 21-yd pass from Will (Slemp kick), 8:47
CAR — Slemp 38-yd FG, 6:37
CAR — Kalin Heath 11-yd run (Slemp kick), 9:11
CAR — Maina Kariuki 35-yd interception return (Slemp kick), 7:26
First downs 7 12
Rushes-yds 41-114 28-130
Passing yds 23 224
Comp-Att-Int 3-11-1 12-28-1
Total yds 137 354
Penalties 2-10 8-65
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-1
Punts-yds 7-236 2-68
Rushing — Gilmer: Johnie Flakes 11-48, Tyler Bertolini 11-36, Colt Henderson 5-11, Drew Morgan 4-8, Tanner Davis 3-8, Cameron Kephart 1-6, Corey Waters 1-1, Marlin Hensley 5-(-4); Cartersville: Brandon Long 14-74, Kalin Heath 8-42-1, Tyler Will 3-14, Brooks Barden 2-3, Henderson 1-3.
Passing — Gilmer: Hensley 2-10-12-0-1, Henderson 1-1-11-0-0; Cartersville: Will 9-17-186-2-1, Barden 3-11-38-0-0.
Receiving — Gilmer: Flakes 1-11, Connor Webber 1-8, Waters 1-4; Cartersville: Elijah Windom 3-99-2, Case Dittmer 2-52, T.L. Ford 3-38, Trey Graves 3-25, Sawyer Landers 1-10.